How the US can kick Russia in their hacking balls - We Are The Mighty
Articles

How the US can kick Russia in their hacking balls

It’s been nearly a year since US intelligence agencies accused top Russian officials of authorizing hacks on voting systems in the US’s 2016 presidential election, and mounting evidence suggests that the US has not fought back against the hacks as strongly as possible.


But attributing and responding to cyber crimes can be difficult, as it can take “months, if not years” before even discovering the attack according Ken Geers, a cyber-security expert for Comodo with experience in the NSA.

Even after finding and attributing an attack, experts may disagree over how best to deter Russia from conducting more attacks.

But should President Donald Trump “make the call” that Russia is to blame and must be retaliated against, Geers told Business Insider an out-of-the-box idea for how to retaliate.

How the US can kick Russia in their hacking balls
Putin and Trump meet in Hamburg, Germany. July 7, 2017. (Photo from Moscow Kremlin.)

“It’s been suggested that we could give Russia strong encryption or pro-democracy tools that the FSB [the Federal Security Service, Russia’s equivalent of the FBI] can’t read or can’t break,” said Geers.

In Russia, Putin’s autocratic government strictly controls access to the internet and monitors the communications of its citizens, allowing it suppress negative stories and flood media with pro-regime propaganda.

If the US provided Russians with tools to communicate secretly and effectively, new, unmonitored information could flow freely and Russians wouldn’t have to fear speaking honestly about their government.

The move would be attractive because it is “asymmetric,” meaning that Russia could not retaliate in turn, according to Geers. In the US, the government does not control communications, and Americans are already free to say whatever they want about the government.

How the US can kick Russia in their hacking balls
Moscow rally 24 December 2011. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons.)

“What if we flooded the Russian market with unbreakable encryption tools for free downloads?,” Geers continued. “That would really make them angry and annoy them. It would put the question back to them, ‘what are you going to do about it?'”

To accomplish this, the NSA could spend time “fingerprinting” or studying RUNET, the Russian version of the internet, according to Geers. The NSA would study the challenges Russia has with censorship, how it polices and monitor communications, and then develop a “fool-proof” tool with user manuals in Russian and drop it into the Russian market with free downloads as a “big surprise,” he added.

“You’re just trying to figure out how to kick them in the balls,” Geers said of the possible tactic. “But they’d probably figure out how to defeat it in time.”

Geers acknowledged that such a move could elicit a dangerous response from Russia, but, without killing or even hurting anyone, it’s unclear how Russia could escalate the conflict.

How the US can kick Russia in their hacking balls
Russian President Putin and former US President Obama’s relationship was contentious, to say the least. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

As it stands, it appears that Russian hacking attempts have continued even after former president Barack Obama expelled Russian diplomats from the US in retaliation last year. Cyber-security experts attribute a series of recent intrusions into US nuclear power plants to Russia.

Taking bold action, as Geers suggests, would leave Russia scrambling to attribute the attack to the US without clear evidence, while putting out fires from a newly empowered public inquiry into its dealings.

The ball would be in Russia’s court, so to speak, and they might think twice about hacking the US election next time.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The story of the iconic 1st Marine Division ‘White House’ at Pendleton

The building has withstood the test of time. It has seen generations of Marines enter and leave its halls. It has seen Marines off to several wars from the shores of Pacific Islands, the mountains of North Korea, the jungles of Vietnam, and the deserts of the Middle East. It has served as the operational and cultural epicenter of the 1st Marine Division — the most storied and consequential Division in the United States Marine Corps. It has seen its share of history both for the division and the Corps.

The building has even been reviewed as a historical site, still bearing the simple style and white paint associated with World War II era buildings, which were originally meant to be temporary. Few of its kind are still standing across the nation, yet it remains, bold in both color and design, while its peers have been replaced over the decades. If you walk through the musty halls that were once treaded by the likes of Chesty Puller and James Mattis, you can see the artwork — paintings of past commanders, old battle scenes ripped from the pages of history and photos of Marines from modern wars.


“It’s a unique building,” said Colonel Christopher S. Dowling, former Chief of Staff of the 1st Marine Division. “When it was built in 1942-1943 it was supposed to only last five years, five years — that was it.”

How the US can kick Russia in their hacking balls

U.S. Marine Corps Col. Christopher S. Dowling.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Audrey M. C. Rampton)

Humanity creates things that last; tools which pass through dozens of hands before becoming worn beyond use, structures that stand strong for decades, centuries and even several millennia. There are also occasions where we make things for a simple and easy use, where they are only meant to last for short periods of time. Building 1133 of Camp Pendleton, better known as “the white house” was one such structure. Acting as both a headquarters and administration building for the growing conflict in the Pacific, it even expanded to accommodate the needs of the 3rd, 4th and 5th Marine Divisions that also participated in World War II’s Pacific Theatre.

“The sergeant major’s office is my favorite room,” said USMC Sgt. Maj. William T. Sowers, former sergeant major of the 1st Marine Division. “The amount of detail in the wood and the fire place gives it that really old feeling and gives off the air of a museum.”

In the early years it did not have the nickname “the white house”. It stood amongst many buildings that were painted the same cheap, bare off-white and was not unique beyond its purpose. Styled like many of the buildings to ensure the security of the command, it served many Marines throughout the Pacific for the course of World War II.

How the US can kick Russia in their hacking balls

The 1st Marine Division Headquarters Building on Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Joseph Prado)

The structure grew upon the Marines that called it home and in 1946 it was officially ordained the 1st Marine Division Headquarters building. This would lead to it being modified decades later, not once, but twice to ensure the building could continue to function and support the many Marines that passed through its halls. Though the renovations have ensured the building has stayed with both the times and technology of the era from phone wiring to internet within its walls, its overall structure and design are still the same as it was when first built.

“It was not as iconic to us during our time,” said U.S. Marine Corps Retired General Matthew P. Caulfield. “We never knew it as ‘the white house’. We never thought about the fact it was the division command post during World War II. We simply knew it as the place we work, though we sometimes referred to it as ‘the head shed’.”

Due to the era in which ‘the white house’ was made, there were many developmental needs required of it during that time. One of the largest was the need to withstand a possible attack. A Japanese invasion of the U.S. was a realistic threat in the 40s. To ensure the safety of the command staff, the building was meant to be indistinguishable from the rest. To those born in the last 40 years, the very concept of a military attack on the U.S. is simply something that would not and could not happen. But in 1940, when Camp Pendleton was officially opened, thousands of Marines marched up from San Diego for combat exercises against a fake enemy. It caused a panic within the civilian population. People initially thought a Japanese invasion had occurred. The base’s presence even led to a drop in the housing market, a fact that is inconceivable to most Southern California home owners today.

How the US can kick Russia in their hacking balls

The main gate of Camp Pendleton.

The threat of attack from the skies influenced much of what would become Camp Pendleton as we know it today. The camps on base are spread wide across the camp’s more than 195 square miles, originally designed to protect the base from being crippled in one decisive airstrike, according to Dowling. In the attics of the White House and other buildings from the era, there is still evidence of the original plywood roofing used. Pressed wood was used at the time for two reasons: actual wood planks were in immediate need to build and replace decks of Navy ships, and pressed wood was less likely to create deadly wood debris if the buildings were stuck by a Japanese bomber.

“The white house” was designed by Myron B. Hunt, Harold C. Chambers and E. L. Ellingwood. Their firms handled the development of several buildings across Camp Pendleton during the 1940s. Based on the U.S. Navy B-1 barracks, which was a common design to further make the building indistinguishable from other building on base at the time, making it less of a target for Japanese bombers after Pearl Harbor. Few of these barracks are still left standing after the 70 plus years since their development. The B-1, much like its sibling structure, “the white house” was only a temporary design meant to last for the duration of the war. In 1983 congress would pass the Military Construction Authorization Bill of 1983, which demolished many of the older temporary structures of World War II in favor of new designs. Some structures were renovated due to their historical significance. “The white house” interior was included in these renovations. The building underwent changes to its exterior but maintained its current shape with only a few minor changes.

Since its construction many people have entered “the white house” and many more have driven past it. It is an iconic symbol of the 1st Marine Division with dozens of memorials surrounding it, capturing the sacrifice of every Marine who fought with the Division during its many battles through our history. From officers arriving at its doors in 1940 Ford staff cars, to 1968 Volkswagen Beatles, and even more recently, a 2018 name your make and model. When one steps out of their vehicle, they would gaze up at the white building marked by the iconic blue diamond and the battle streamers the division has earned.

How the US can kick Russia in their hacking balls

The 1st Marine Division Headquarters Building on Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California, May 17, 2018.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Joseph Prado)

In the old days it would support the entire command staff, but now much of the command is spread out across Camp Pendleton. Many Blue Diamond alum have even thought of making it into a museum, given the many historical pieces that already line its halls. It gives off that feeling of having entered a place engrained with history.

“The iconic building of the ‘Blue Diamond,’ it is the division,” said Sowers. “Many people assume that this is the main command post for the Marine Expeditionary Force or even the Marine Corps Installations West.”

Many of the older veterans were not using to dealing with the commands of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force, said Sowers. When they thought of “the white house” they’d think of the commanding general who presided over all they knew of the Marines on the West Coast at that time.

Generals, majors, sergeants and lance corporals have walked its halls over the last 70 years. Some still live amongst us while others have given the ultimate sacrifice. Their memories and actions live through both the 1st Marine Division and “the white house” itself, which has been an unchanging monument to the Marines of the 1st Marine Division. No matter the age in which one served the Division, all have known that building in one way or another. It is a testament to both the Division and the Marines that have served. Our ideals have become engrained into its very structure and it has become a permanent member in both the hearts and minds of the Marines of the 1st Marine Division.

This article originally appeared on the United States Marine Corps. Follow @USMC on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Policy change allows soldiers to voluntarily seek alcohol-related healthcare

With the signing of a directive by Army Secretary Mark T. Esper on March 25, 2019, U.S. Army soldiers can voluntarily seek alcohol-related behavioral healthcare without being mandatorily enrolled in a substance abuse treatment program. This policy encourages soldiers to take personal responsibility and seek help earlier therefore improving readiness by decreasing unnecessary enrollment and deployment limitations.

The directive’s goal is for soldiers to receive help for self-identified alcohol-related behavioral health problems before these problems result in mandatory treatment enrollment, deployment restrictions, command notification and negative career impact.


“This is a huge historical policy change that will address a long standing barrier to soldiers engaging in alcohol-related treatment,” said Jill M. Londagin, the Army Substance Use Disorder Clinical Care Program Director. “Alcohol is by far the most abused substance in the Army. Approximately 22 percent of soldiers report problematic alcohol use on Post Deployment Health Reassessments.

However, less than two percent receive substance abuse treatment. This is due, in part, because historic Department of Defense and Army substance abuse treatment policies and practices discouraged soldiers from self-referring for alcohol abuse care.”

How the US can kick Russia in their hacking balls

(Photo by Audrey Hayes)

Substance Use Disorder Clinical Care (SUDCC) providers are now co-located with Embedded Behavioral Health (EBH) teams across the Army. “SUDCC providers being integrated into our EBH teams allows for more seamless, holistic, far-forward care than we have ever been able to provide in the past,” said Dr. Jamie Moore, Embedded Behavioral Health Clinical Director.

The directive creates two tracks for substance abuse care: voluntary and mandatory. Soldiers can self-refer for voluntary alcohol-related behavioral healthcare, which does not render them non-deployable and doesn’t require command notification like the mandatory treatment track does.

Soldiers enter mandatory substance use disorder treatment if a substance use-related incident occurs, such as a driving under the influence violation. Under the voluntary care track, treatment is not tied to a punitive process and is a choice a soldier can make before a career impacting event occurs. Soldiers in the voluntary care track may discontinue care at any time and can also choose to reenter care at any time.

The treatment process begins when a soldier notices signs of alcohol misuse, which may include frequently drinking in excess, engaging in risky behavior, such as drunk driving, lying about the extent of one’s alcohol use, memory impairment or poor decision-making. Next, the soldier self-refers to Behavioral Health for an evaluation. The provider and the soldier will then develop a treatment plan directed at the soldier’s goals.

The length of treatment will be based on the soldier and his or her symptoms. HIPPA privacy laws require that soldiers’ BH treatment remains private unless they meet the command notification requirements in DoDI 6490.08, such as harm to self, harm to others, acute medical conditions interfering with duty or inpatient care.

How the US can kick Russia in their hacking balls

(Ms. Rebecca Westfall, Army Medicine)

“Only those enrolled in mandatory substance abuse treatment are considered to be in a formal treatment program,” Londagin said. “Self-referrals that are seen under voluntary care are treated in the same manner as all other behavioral health care.”

The previous version of the substance abuse treatment policy, Army Regulation 600-85 (reference 1f), required all soldiers to be formally enrolled in a substance abuse treatment program just to seek assistance, which discouraged soldiers from seeking help early.

“The policy also limited the number of enrollments permitted during a soldier’s career, preventing the soldier from seeking more support at a later date without risk of administrative separation,” Londagin said.

“During a pilot phase, 5,892 soldiers voluntarily received alcohol-related behavioral health care without enrollment in mandatory substance abuse treatment,” said Londagin. “This supports our efforts to provide early treatment to soldiers prior to an alcohol-related incident and has led to a 34 percent reduction in the deployment ineligibility of soldiers receiving care.”

“Early intervention for alcohol-related behavioral health care increases the health and readiness of our force and provides a pathway for soldiers to seek care without career implications,” said Londagin.

This article originally appeared on United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

Articles

Today in military history: Women inducted into US Naval Academy

On July 6, 1976, the United States Naval Academy admitted women for the first time.

On Oct. 7, 1975, President Gerald Ford signed legislation permitting women to enter the military academies. The following year, more than 300 women joined the graduating class of 1980.

81 of them were midshipmen at Annapolis, Maryland. 

But earning their commission would not be easy. With male chauvinism and bias working against them in addition to the mental and physical challenges of military training, the women had to work hard to prove themselves — which they quickly did, nailing academics at a higher rate than their male counterparts and slowly earning the respect of their brothers in arms. 

“I think our male classmates, being used to attending co-ed high schools, didn’t find it odd having women in their classes,” Barbara Ives — then known as Barbara Arlene Morris — once said of her experience as a member of that first class, “but the upperclassmen who were used to having men-only had a much harder time.”

The media didn’t help the situation.

“From the moment we arrived, the media singled us out, and it increased animosity,” Ives explained. “The media always wanted to do interviews and take our photos.”

The Navy didn’t know what they were doing, either. The female midshipmen were assigned full dress uniforms that included white skirts, stockings and heels. The heels dug into the grass and the white didn’t stay white for long. According to the Tester, “the Navy’s first solution to the problem was to cut off the heels of their shoes, resulting in an increase in foot-related medical problems. Finally, by their second year, the women were issued proper flat shoes and a uniform known as White Works, which included bellbottom pants.”

55 women from that first class graduated, paving the way for all female cadets, who now comprise more than a quarter of the student body. 

Anchors aweigh, ladies!

MIGHTY CULTURE

49ers’ Garland wears a different kind of uniform off the field

When Air Force Academy football player Ben Garland broke his left hand at practice in 2009, Head Coach Troy Calhoun thought he might miss the rest of the season. Garland played that week.

“You thought, ‘My goodness, this guy, he’s a pretty special human being,”’ Calhoun said.


Garland, 32, is now entering his sixth NFL season overall and his second season with the San Francisco 49ers. For the last nine years, the offensive lineman has spent his offseasons with the Colorado Air National Guard.

“It shapes who you are,” Garland, a captain with the 140th Wing of the Colorado Air National Guard, said of his military training. “It teaches you that teamwork, that discipline, that work ethic. A lot of things that are valuable to the team, I learned in my military career.”

Garland was 5 years old when he attended an Air Force football game with his grandfather, who was a colonel. That experience led the determined boy to vow to play on that field someday and become an officer.

Garland played on the defensive line at the Air Force Academy from 2006 to 2009, earning all-Mountain West conference, second-team honors as a senior. He signed with the Denver Broncos as an undrafted free agent and placed on the reserve/military list for two years so he could honor his military commitment.

Garland became an offensive lineman in 2012 and has been on three teams that reached the Super Bowl — the Broncos after the 2013 season, the Atlanta Falcons after the 2016 season and the 49ers last February. Garland started at center during San Francisco’s 31-20 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl LIV in Miami.

“I’m definitely known around the wing as the guy who plays in the NFL,” said Garland, who is 6 feet 5 and weighs 308 pounds.

How the US can kick Russia in their hacking balls

Capt. Ben Garland. Courtesy photo.

Garland has worked primarily in public affairs with the Air National Guard, handling media and community relations as well as internal communications. He has deployed abroad, including to Jordan in 2013.

He was also the recipient of a 2018 Salute to Service Award, in part, because of actions off the field including donating game tickets each week to service members, visiting the Air Force Academy annually to speak to students, working with Georgia Tech ROTC and mentoring local young officers, according to the NFL.

“Once you join the military, you are always an airman or soldier or whatever branch you choose, but we’re all service members,” said Major Kinder Blacke, chief of public affairs for the 140th Wing of the Colorado Air National Guard. “I don’t really think you take that uniform off. I guess I would say I see him as a guardsman who’s an excellent football player and has pursued both of those dreams at once. It’s really admirable.”

Garland said he cherishes his time at Air Force.

“It was extremely challenging and physical, and you were exhausted at times, but the challenging things in life mean the most to you,” he said. “It was one of the best experiences of my life, and I have some of my closest friends from it.”

Garland served on active duty from 2010-12 after graduation. He was already a member of the Air National Guard by the time he made his NFL debut for the Broncos against the Raiders in Oakland on Nov. 9, 2014.

“The way he is able to have a full plate but to do it with such drive and energy, he has an enormous amount of work capacity,” Calhoun said.

The coronavirus pandemic has altered the sports calendar and left a question mark over Garland’s NFL career. There is no guarantee that Garland will be with his teammates for the 49ers’ scheduled opener against the Arizona Cardinals at home on Sept. 13.

Regardless, Garland still possesses a clear vision for what lies ahead.

“Once my NFL career is over, I’d love to do more stuff with the military,” he said. “It just depends where my body’s at. …[In] the military, you get people from all walks of life to come together to be one of the best teams in the world. These selfless, incredible, courageous people, you get to know and be friends with. I definitely want to be a part of that as long as I can.”

Keep up with Garland’s career updates by following him on Instagram.

This article originally appeared on Reserve + National Guard Magazine. Follow @ReserveGuardMag on Twitter.


Articles

Forget ‘Suicide Squad,’ this was America’s ‘Suicide Division’

Moviegoers are gearing up for “Suicide Squad,” the new movie featuring comic supervillains who work to protect America. But the U.S. was protected by an entire “Suicide Division” known for lightning tactics and fierce fighting in World War II.


How the US can kick Russia in their hacking balls
The 714th Tank Battalion, part of the 12th Armored Division, sported a logo by Walt Disney. Photo: The 12th Armored Division Memorial Museum

The 12th Armored Division preferred the nickname, “Hellcats,” but was dubbed the “Suicide Division” by the Nazis for stubbornly defending territory despite heavy losses.

The 12th Armored Division activated Camp Campbell, Kentucky in 1942. In Sep. 1944, it was sent to Europe and in Nov. they crossed the English Channel to join the 7th Army in the attack across France.

How the US can kick Russia in their hacking balls
The 12th Armored Division trains at Camp Campbell. Photo: The 12th Armored Division Memorial Museum

The Hellcats arrival was characterized by fighting and extreme cold. The 12th was sent against the Maginot Line, the string of underground bunkers originally designed to protect France from the Germans. Unfortunately, these bunkers were now manned by the Nazis who put up a fierce resistance.

Just after the start of 1945, the division saw its bloodiest fight. While the more famous Battle of the Bulge was going on in the Ardennes Forest, German troops launched counteroffensives in other parts of the Allied line. On the French and German border, some of these attacks focused on tanks of the 12th Armored near Herrlisheim, France.

Bad maneuvering by higher commanders left the U.S. forces vulnerable to German anti-tank fire during pitched armored and infantry warfare there from Jan. 5, 1945 to Jan. 19.

How the US can kick Russia in their hacking balls
Photo: The 12th Armored Division Memorial Museum

On Jan. 19 Col. Charles V. Bromley and Combat Command B, roughly half of the division’s combat strength, were under heavy assault by German infantry supported by tanks. The headquarters staff prepared to evacuate in a hurry, but Bromley yelled at them that they would hold their position.

“Stop this goddamn panic,” he said. “We’re not retreating anywhere. We’re defending this command post; we’re holding this line. We’re soldiers; we have weapons; we’re expendable.”

The Nazis took note of the 12th Armored Division’s stubborn refusal to retreat. German prisoners of war said that the 12th became a feared unit and was dubbed the “Suicide Division.”

The 12th Armored lasted long enough to be relieved by other U.S. units and was pulled back from the front. During the fighting around Herrlisheim, the division lost approximately 1,250 men and 70 combat vehicles.

At Herrilsheim, the division’s soldiers had become true veterans. After this baptism by fire, they were sent to oust the last German holdouts in France at the Colmar Pocket. The mountain stronghold had been promised to Hitler as a Nazi birthday party gift by Heinrich Himmler, but the tanks of the 12th and other divisions cut the Germans off and liberated the French.

After receiving awards from the local French leaders, the division was sent for a short rest and refit before being transferred to Patton’s Third Army.

In the first six days of a new Third Army advance, the Suicide Division cut to the Rhine River and then captured a string of cities along the banks. A new nickname, the “Mystery Division,” was placed on the 12th because not even Army press releases identified who the new tanks in the Third Army were.

On Mar. 19, the 12th was told to keep attacking south in a search for intact bridges. Over the next three days, the Hellcats killed over 1,000 Germans, captured approximately 5,700, and seized a large amount of enemy materiel and a hospital. They also destroyed a train, 20 tanks, and 56 artillery pieces and anti-aircraft guns.

The division’s lightning attack continued, sometimes moving so fast that German defenders would wave until they realized the unit coming towards them was American.

How the US can kick Russia in their hacking balls
The 12th Armored Division’s sign lets other troops know who captured the breidge across the Danube at Dillingen, Germany. Photo: The 12th Armored Division Memorial Museum

After returning to the 7th Army, the 12th Armored Division began another series of quick attacks that captured German manufacturing plants, troops, and famous German cities like Nuremberg. At Dillingen, the division successfully captured one of the few bridges left intact over the Danube. At the bridge they erected a sign for Allied forces trying to catch up:

You are crossing the beautiful blue Danube through the courtesy of the 12th Armored Division.

The 12th liberated prisoners from the concentration camp at Murnau and many of the subcamps of Dachau.

As the war was drawing to a close, 12th Armored Division tanks teamed up with regular German troops and French prisoners to fight off SS attacks at Castle Itter when the hardline Nazis attempted to execute the prisoners and guards there.

Articles

This veteran Navy SEAL just did a 5 mile ruck underwater

Combat veteran and Navy SEAL Kaj Larsen was born to be in the ocean, but these days he doesn’t blow things up underwater anymore. He’s saving it all instead. 

Larsen grew up in Santa Cruz, California, where his mother taught at the university. Surrounded by “watermen,” the ocean was always home, he said. In 1995, he brought his aquatic abilities to the water polo team at the Naval Academy, committed to following a long, family tradition of military service. 

“My grandfather served in the Navy during World War II and my father was a Marine during Vietnam so I thought it was important that I serve too. Because I came from this really aquatic background, the SEAL Team was a natural fit for me,” he explained. 

Larsen transferred to the University of California in 1997 and then commissioned through Officer Candidate School (first in his class) in April of 2001. Not long after, our nation was at war. He was in the first phase of BUD/S class when America was attacked on 9/11. After graduation, he led teams into covert combat operations in the War on Terror for multiple deployments. In 2007, he transitioned from active duty after five years into the reserves.

How the US can kick Russia in their hacking balls
Photo provided by Larsen.

Larsen left the Navy reserves in 2018 as a Lieutenant Commander. 

After his active-duty military service, Larsen attended graduate school at Harvard for public policy and counter-terrorism studies. He very quickly became a familiar face on CNN, ABC or MSNBC where he reported from war zones across the world. 

And, he volunteered to be water-boarded on live television.

You could also find him hosting VICE on HBO, where he produced documentaries on conflict and national security. Larsen was the only embedded journalist during the Nigerian fight against Boko Haram. The SEAL became an award-winning documentarian, journalist and producer. 

His passion for national security and the military community merged his love of the ocean when he joined Force Blue Team as a veteran ambassador.

“Force Blue takes former special operations veterans and repurposes those underwater military skills for ocean conservation,” Larsen shared. “We have this dual mission of both healing the ocean and in doing so we can help heal veterans from our time in service. I really believe in the therapeutic and healing power of the ocean.”

You’ll find combat veterans just like him on the ocean floor planting coral, rescuing turtles, completing vital fish counts and conducting oceanic surveys. “It’s like my life has come full circle. Underwater demolition used to be my job and now I’m replanting coral reefs and watching them come back to life,” Larsen said. 

In 2021, Larsen teamed up with veteran Marine Raider Don Tran for what was supposed to be a one-mile underwater ruck run when Ten Thousand challenged them to a feat of strength. The challenge was definitely accepted.

“We started training in the pool where it was definitely tough and challenging. But we accomplished it and like any two spec ops guys standing next to each other, we decided to ratchet up the intensity a little,” Larsen said with a laugh. 

That “just a little” turned into a never-been-done-before five-mile underwater ruck. Using the freediving buddy system of one up and one down, the former special warfare operatives leapfrogged across the living ocean floor for five miles, all while carrying a 45-pound rock. 

“The first 250 yards was brutal. It was not like the training in the pool. Here we had the ocean and current pushing us around. But like any marathon or mission we put one foot in front of the other and just grinded it out,” Larsen said. 

Grind it out they did. It took them six hours and 28 minutes. The entire extraordinary event will be shown to the world in a documentary coming soon.

For this veteran Navy SEAL who relied on the ocean for so much, taking care of it is a mission he’s happy to accept.  “I know the beauty and wonder of the sea. I also see with my own eyes the terrible impact happening to our ocean,” Larsen said. “I am dedicated, along with my brothers from Force Blue, to helping heal that thing which has done so much to help heal me.”

You can learn more about Kaj Larsen by clicking here and then dive (pun intended) into Force Blue’s mission over here.

Articles

The Army wants to ditch the M249 SAW and give the infantry more firepower

The US Army is looking for an upgrade to the M249 squad automatic weapon, a mainstay of the infantry squad and its prime source of firepower.


According to a notice on the government’s Federal Business Opportunities website, first spotted by Army Times, the US Army is looking for the Next Generation Squad Automatic Rifle, or NGSAR, to replace the M249.

The NGSAR “will combine the firepower and range of a machine gun with the precision and ergonomics of a carbine, yielding capability improvements in accuracy, range, and lethality.”

The notice stipulates that NGSAR proposals should be lightweight and compatible with the Small Arms Fire Control system as well as legacy optics and night-vision devices.

How the US can kick Russia in their hacking balls
A M249 Squad Automatic Weapon (SAW) on a Stryker.(Photo by Patrick A. Albright, Fort Benning Public Affairs)

“The NGSAR will achieve overmatch by killing stationary, and suppressing moving, threats out to 600 meters, and suppressing all threats to a range of 1200 meters,” the notice states.

The FBO posting does not list a caliber for the new weapon. The M249 fires a 5.56 mm round, and the Army is currently examining rounds of intermediate caliber between 5.56 mm and 7.62 mm to be used in both light machine guns and the eventual replacement for the M4 rifle.

The desire to replace the 5.56 mm round comes from reports indicating it is less effective at long range, as well as developments in body armor that lessen the round’s killing power.

The M249’s possible replacement, the M27 infantry automatic rifle, has already been deployed among Marines and is now carried by the automatic rifleman in each Marine squad.

The M27 was first introduced in 2010, originally meant to replace the M249, but the Marine Corps is reportedly considering replacing every infantryman’s M4 with an M27.

How the US can kick Russia in their hacking balls
A Marine fires his M27 Infantry Automatic Rifle while conducting squad attack exercise in Bahrain on Dec. 1, 2016. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Manuel Benavides)

The notice also requires that the NGSAR come with a tracer-and-ball ammunition variant, which “must provide a visual signature observable by the shooter with unaided vision during both daylight and night conditions.”

The NGSAR should also weigh no more than 12 pounds with its sling, bipod, and sound suppressor. The M249 weighs 17 pounds in that configuration, according to Army Times. The notice does not include ammunition in its weight requirements.

The phasing in of M249 replacement should take place over the coming decade, the notice says.

 

Articles

These are the 12 largest nuclear detonations in history

How the US can kick Russia in their hacking balls
Wikimedia


In a surprise announcement, North Korea has claimed that it successfully tested a hydrogen bomb.

Pyongyang, which has a history of exaggerating its successes, claims that the test was a “perfect success.”

North Korea also believes that its successful miniaturization of a hydrogen bomb elevates the country’s “nuclear might to the next level.”

Since the first nuclear test on July 15, 1945, there have been over 2,051 other nuclear weapons tests around the world.

No other force epitomizes the absolute destructive power humanity has unlocked in the way nuclear weapons have. And the weapons rapidly became more powerful in the decades after that first test.

The device tested in 1945 had a 20 kiloton yield, meaning it had the explosive force of 20,000 tons of TNT. Within 20 years, the US and USSR tested nuclear weapons larger than 10 megatons, or 10 million tons of TNT. For scale, these weapons were at least 500 times as strong as the first atomic bomb.

To put the size of history’s largest nuclear blasts to scale, we have used Alex Wellerstein’s Nukemap, a tool for visualizing the terrifying real-world impact of a nuclear explosion.

In the following maps, the first ring of the blast is the fireball, followed by the radiation radius. In the pink radius, almost all buildings are demolished and fatalities approach 100%. In the gray radius, stronger buildings would weather the blast, but injuries are nearly universal. In the orange radius, people with exposed skin would suffer from third-degree burns, and flammable materials would catch on fire, leading to possible firestorms.

11 (tie). Soviet Tests #158 and #168

How the US can kick Russia in their hacking balls
Alex Wellerstein | Nukemap

On August 25 and September 19, 1962, less than a month apart, the USSR conducted nuclear tests #158 and #168. Both tests were held over the Novaya Zemlya region of Russia, an archipelago to the north of Russia near the Arctic Ocean.

No film or photographs of the tests have been released, but both tests included the use of 10-megaton atomic bombs. These blasts would have incinerated everything within 1.77 square miles of their epicenters while causing third-degree burns up to an area of 1,090 square miles.

10. Ivy Mike

How the US can kick Russia in their hacking balls
CTBTO

On November 1, 1952, the US tested Ivy Mike over the Marshall Islands. Ivy Mike was the world’s first hydrogen bomb and had a yield of 10.4 megatons, making it 700 times as strong as the first atomic bomb.

Ivy Mike’s detonation was so powerful that it vaporized the Elugelab Island where it was detonated, leaving in its place a 164-foot-deep crater. The explosion’s mushroom cloud traveled 30 miles into the atmosphere.

9. Castle Romeo

How the US can kick Russia in their hacking balls
Wikimedia Commons

Romeo was the second US nuclear detonation of the Castle Series of tests, which were conducted in 1954. All of the detonations took place over Bikini Atoll. Castle Romeo was the third-most powerful test of the series and had a yield of 11 megatons.

Romeo was the first device to be tested on a barge over open water instead of on a reef, as the US was quickly running out of islands upon which it could test nuclear weapons.

The blast would have incinerated everything within 1.91 square miles.

8. Soviet Test #123

How the US can kick Russia in their hacking balls
Alex Wellerstein | Nukemap

On October 23, 1961, the Soviets conducted nuclear test #123 over Novaya Zemlya. Test #123 used a 12.5 megaton nuclear bomb. A bomb of this size would incinerate everything within 2.11 square miles while causing third-degree burns in an area of 1,309 square miles.

No footage or photographs of this nuclear test have been released.

7. Castle Yankee

How the US can kick Russia in their hacking balls
Screengrab | YouTube

Castle Yankee, the second-strongest of the Castle series tests, was conducted on May 4, 1954. The bomb was 13.5 megatons. Four days later, its fallout reached Mexico City, about 7,100 miles away.

6. Castle Bravo

How the US can kick Russia in their hacking balls
U.S. Department of Energy

Castle Bravo, detonated on February 28, 1954, was the first of the Castle series of tests and the largest US nuclear blast of all time.

Bravo was anticipated as a 6-megaton explosion. Instead, the bomb produced a 15-megaton fission blast. Its mushroom cloud reached 114,000 feet into the air.

The US military’s miscalculation of the test’s size resulted in the irradiation of approximately 665 inhabitants of the Marshall Islands and the radiation poisoning death of a Japanese fisherman who was 80 miles away from the detonation site.

3 (tie). Soviet Tests #173, #174, and #147

How the US can kick Russia in their hacking balls
Alex Wellerstein | Nukemap

From August 5 to September 27, 1962, the USSR conducted a series of nuclear tests over Novaya Zemlya.Tests #173, #174, and #147 all stand out as being the fifth-, fourth-, and third-strongest nuclear blasts in history.

All three produced blasts of about 20 megatons, or about 1,000 times as strong as the Trinity bomb. A bomb of this strength would incinerate everything within 3 square miles.

No footage or photographs of these nuclear tests have been released.

2. Soviet Test #219

How the US can kick Russia in their hacking balls
Alex Wellerstein | Nukemap

On December 24, 1962, the USSR conductedTest #219 over Novaya Zemlya. The bomb had a yield of 24.2 megatons. A bomb of this strength would incinerate everything within 3.58 square miles while causing third-degree burns in an area up to 2,250 square miles.

There are no released photos or video of this explosion.

1. The Tsar Bomba

How the US can kick Russia in their hacking balls
Screengrab | YouTube

On October 30, 1961, the USSR detonated the largest nuclear weapon ever tested and created the biggest man-made explosion in history. The blast, 3,000 times as strong as the bomb used on Hiroshima, broke windows 560 miles away, according to Slate.

The flash of light from the blast was visible up to 620 miles away.

The Tsar Bomba, as the test was ultimately known, had a yield between 50 and 58 megatons, twice the size of the second-largest nuclear blast.

A bomb of this size would create a fireball 6.4 square miles large and would be able to give humans third-degree burns within 4,080 square miles of the bomb’s epicenter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

A $440 million warship is stuck in ice in Canada

The USS Little Rock looks like it was designed by a committee of 12-year-old Transformers enthusiasts, that is, like a sports car speedboat battleship with guns that go pew pew pew. It cost the United States about $440 million and is part of a new category of ultra-versatile warship known as the littoral class: “a fast, agile, mission-focused- platform designed for operation in near-shore environments yet capable of open-ocean operation.”


What the Little Rock does not do is fly. This ugly-as-sin future-boat is, ultimately, still just a boat. It was built at a shipyard in Wisconsin and spent the summer of 2017 in trials on Lake Michigan. It was commissioned last month in Buffalo, New York. From there, it’s next stop was to be its home port in Florida. As it turns out, the Little Rock will be a few months late. Because winter.

As reported by the Washington Post, the Little Rock is currently docked in Montreal. It’s stuck. The Saint Lawrence Seaway, the Great Lakes’ outlet to the Atlantic Ocean, is frozen over.

How the US can kick Russia in their hacking balls
USS Little Rock enters Buffalo prior to being commissioned. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

While colder-than-average temperatures in the Northeast haven’t helped, this is actually normal. The freshwater Seaway (and the Great Lakes shipping system, generally) normally closes to shipping between December and March because of ice.

In any case, this winter stopover for the USS Little Rock wasn’t planned. Significant weather conditions prevented the ship from departing Montreal earlier this month and icy conditions continue to intensify, offered a statement from the Navy.

The temperatures in Montreal and throughout the transit area have been colder than normal, and included near-record low temperatures, which created significant and historical conditions in the late December, early January timeframe.

There are some ships actually designed for this. Ice-ready ships usually aren’t even what we’d normally think of icebreakers. These are just normal boats built for cold climates.

Also Read: The US Navy’s newest warship is stuck in Canada because of ice

Ships with this capability are rated according to “ice class,” a loose classification system corresponding to how much extra strengthening a ship’s hull has. Ice class ships range from Scandinavian ferry boats to Russia’s “polar corvette” take on littoral battleships. Indeed there’s anxiety among military types in the US about an “icebreaker gap” between the US and Russia. That is, we don’t really have fast battleships that can fight in the Arctic, while Russia does.

We’re assured that the 70 person crew is making the most of their time in port, working on training and certifications and other assorted boat stuff. And, as far as places to be stuck in the winter, they’re probably better off in Montreal than, say, Buffalo. There’s nothing like a steaming pile of poutine on a cold-ass day.

MIGHTY HISTORY

How an addict became a Navy SEAL and a nightmare for the Taliban

The biographies of most Navy SEALs probably don’t include a rap sheet — theft, possession of meth, possession of crack, and so on. But if there’s ever been a story of redemption through continued hard work and perseverance, it belongs to Adam Brown. Facing 11 felony drug and weapons charges after being found in a pool of his own blood, he opted into a drug rehab program — which only worked for a short while.

His best chance at turning his life around came in the form of a SEAL trident.


Brown’s life began like so many other good-ol’ American boys before him. The Arkansas native was a straight-A student and star football player. He was kind, respectful to his elders, and always ready for goodnatured fun. It wasn’t until he met an old flame that his descent into addiction began. She had a drug habit and, though Brown enjoyed a drink, he wasn’t inclined toward anything harder than that. Eventually, his girlfriend wore him down and he was hooked after one hit of crack-cocaine.

From there, he devolved into injecting it into his veins. Then, he began to try other drugs. Eventually, he could only be found on the floors of crack houses. He hit rock bottom when the girl who helped get him hooked eventually left and he began stabbing himself in the neck with a knife. When police found him, he was laying in a pool of his own blood. That’s when they discovered all his outstanding warrants. Facing massive jail time and a family that was done with his addictive behaviors, the judge gave him the choice: rehab or jail.

It was in rehab that Brown gave his life over to Christianity and met his soon-to-be wife, also a fervent believer. The two were happy, but Brown soon regressed. After a short disappearance, his new bride found him in a crack house. Addiction is a viscous and persistent curse, and this same scenario repeated itself until his new love threatened to leave.

By 1998, he knew he had to do something, so he stopped into a recruiter’s office after finding out a friend was joining the Navy as an aviator. The recruiter balked when Brown revealed his drug use and rap sheet, but Brown had a friend in a high place: the highest-ranking recruiting officer in the region. He vouched for Brown, who was almost immediately shipped out to basic training.

He showed up with just the clothes on his back and went straight for SEAL training.

“The training awakened in Adam the psycho who never quit,” Eric Blehm, author of ‘Fearless: The Undaunted Courage and Ultimate Sacrifice of Navy SEAL Team Six Operator Adam Brown’ told Investors Business Daily. “He also had Kelley [his wife] and his faith, which gave him a refuge and a shield of strength.”
How the US can kick Russia in their hacking balls

Brown and Family, shortly before his last deployment to Afghanistan.

He was sent to SEAL Team Four, where he ended up with a knife in his eye due to a training accident. He covered the wound and continued on, eventually having to have the eye stitched up due to a loss of blood. He later lost his right eye — his dominant eye — during a room-clearing exercise and still he pressed on. He just learned to shoot with his left eye in SEAL sniper school.

Even with a 50-percent washout rate among those with two eyes, Adam Brown succeeded. He decided he wanted to join what he thought was the best of the best: SEAL Team Six. While waiting for the right time to train with SEAL Team Six, he took a deployment to Afghanistan in 2005, where a freak convoy accident left his right hand mangled and missing fingers. Instead of tending to his own wounds, he tended to others and pulled security until the last casualty was evacuated from the site.

How the US can kick Russia in their hacking balls

When you can’t shoot with your dominant hand, just use the other hand.

With his dominant eye and his dominant hand both out, Brown did exactly what you’d expect him to do: he simply learned to work with his other hand. For a year, he made history as the only SEAL to ever attempt (let alone pass) the training with only one eye. And he was shooting almost-perfect scores.

By November, 2006, Brown was Chief Petty Officer Brown and the following years saw more hardship and deployments for the SEAL. He bore the pain of arthritis, a bad back, a broken leg, and surgery on both ankles so he could return to combat duty. He deployed to Afghanistan’s Kunar Valley and to the cities and villages all over Iraq, going on nightly raids chasing IED bomb-makers. Brown was only 33.

How the US can kick Russia in their hacking balls

Navy SEAL Adam Brown personally went out of his way to hand out shoes and socks to Afghan kids in need.

(NavySEALs.com)

His final deployment came in March of 2010. Their mission was to kill or capture a high-value Taliban leader, code-named Objective Lake James. Just like the bomb-makers in Iraq, the target was responsible for the deaths of many American and NATO soldiers. Flying into the mountains of Afghanistan’s Hindu Kush via Chinook Helicopter, Brown and the other STS SEALs fast-roped into the area and humped to a nearby village.

As the SEALs approached a stronghold, they managed to silently take out an enemy sentry, but another fired at the SEALs with his AK-47. As the area opened up with small arms fire, the SEAL Team needed to get a grenade in a nearby window. It was close, but not close enough to throw one in. As Brown made his way around with a grenade launcher, shots rang out to his left, riddling the determined SEAL with bullets. He was hit in both legs. Once he was down, other enemy positions poured bullets toward him.

How the US can kick Russia in their hacking balls

His fellow SEALs got him out of the line of fire, but it would not be enough to save Adam Brown’s life. He died later that day, back at the base.

Though Brown’s story ends in his tragic death, it’s nonetheless a story about the power of human will in overcoming any challenge. Brown showed us that you can always shape your life in any way you want, and all it takes is the love and support of your family, friends, and the people who will always have your back. Fearless is a fitting name for his story – there was nothing in life that Adam Brown couldn’t overcome to shape his own destiny.

Read about Brown’s struggle against addiction along with all his combat successes and failures in Fearless: The Undaunted Courage and Ultimate Sacrifice of Navy SEAL Team Six Operator Adam Brown, by Eric Blehm.

Articles

This was the youngest soldier wounded in the Civil War

Underage soldiers were often allowed to enlist during the Civil War — especially if they chose a non-combat position such as bugler or drummer boy. This led to boys barely in their teens suffering wounds alongside the grown men.


In one case, a 12-year-old boy nearly lost his left hand and arm when it was shattered by an artillery shell.

How the US can kick Russia in their hacking balls
Drummer boy William Black was wounded by a Confederate shell in battle at the age of 12 making him the youngest service member wounded in the Civil War. (Photo: Matthew Brady, U.S. National Archives and Records Administration)

William Black originally enlisted at the age of 9 in an Indiana Regiment as a drummer in 1861 and served at the Battle of Baton Rouge with his father.

Sometime in 1864, he was serving in battle when an artillery shell burst nearby. The shrapnel ripped through his left hand and arm. He is widely regarded as having been the youngest Civil War casualty.

But he was far from the only young boy to earn notoriety in the Civil War. The Army’s youngest noncommissioned officer was John Clem. Clem joined the Army at 11 as a drummer boy but was gifted a cut-down musket by his unit. He allegedly shot a Confederate officer demanding his surrender at Chickamauga and was promoted to sergeant at the age of 12.

How the US can kick Russia in their hacking balls
John Lincoln Clem as a young drummer boy. (Photo: Library of Congress)

At least two young boys earned Medals of Honor in the war. Orion P. Howe was a 14-year-old drummer boy in 1863 when he delivered ammo under fire at the battle of Vicksburg. He was wounded during his attempt but pressed on, completing his mission.

Bugle player John Cook dropped his instrument and joined a cannon crew under fire at Antietam, helping the Union hold the line against Confederate forces attempting to invade North.

And Black wasn’t the worst wounded of young boys, just the youngest. John Mather Sloan lost a leg in the war while he was only 13 years old.

Articles

The latest craze in secret spy planes? Converted luxury aircraft

The skies above the United States and its allies aren’t just an intelligence battleground anymore, they’re also a big business arena. Some of the world’s top aircraft designers are looking to get their designs airborne with America’s most top secret missions.

Today, Sweden’s air forces are flying nondescript, ulta-secret spy missions in what appear to be the swankiest luxury aircraft on the market. In April 2021, Sweden flew a pair of luxury airplanes off the coast of Russia, where Russian military signals and radar were highly active. 

It looked like a luxury private jet that could have belonged to any corporate officer from anywhere in the world. The converted Gulfstream IV was nothing of the sort; it was filled with the latest and greatest in signals intelligence collection equipment. 

This isn’t the first time Sweden has employed its sleek fleet of Gulfstream spy planes over the past few years. They’ve been seen flying around Syria and the Mediterranean Sea. Sweden isn’t alone in employing them – other governments are bringing a demand for converted luxury aircraft.

According to Reuters, the market for selling special mission business jets to intelligence agencies is worth more than $3 billion worldwide. Using converted luxury aircraft is apparently a lower-cost alternative to converting larger passenger planes or military aircraft. 

One defense and military analyst believes the shift is coming from the advanced listening and intelligence systems. As they get smaller and more powerful, the size of the aircraft needed to house them also gets smaller. 

These special missions can vary from passive radar detection, communications interception, and early-warning systems. Countries from South Korea to France to the Israel Defense Forces are looking for more inexpensive ways to continue these missions using advanced equipment and smaller planes.

A private corporate jet can cost anywhere from $20 million to $60 million, the Reuters report says. Conversion to a spy plane with the latest technology could run state actors upwards of another $200 million. 

The new demand for smaller aircraft is a boon to the private aviation industry, according to industry executives, who saw a drop off in demand from the civilian sector. A focus on military conversion means the companies will be more dedicated to that sector. 

How the US can kick Russia in their hacking balls
The RQ-4, a little bigger than you might picture when you hear “drone.” (Courtesy photo)

Although using luxury private aircraft as spy planes is a tradition that dates back to the Cold War, the breakthroughs in signals intelligence technology mean that smaller planes can be as effective as larger ones in singular “special mission” roles. The only threat to this new, emerging marketplace for corporate aircraft: special mission drones. 

Unmanned aerial vehicles can be a slightly cheaper alternative for some countries looking for so-called “special mission aircraft,” but they aren’t that much cheaper. The Northrop Grumman Global Hawk UAV will still run about $130 million.

But converted executive aircraft are a good investment. The U.S. military purchased a number of Grumman Gulfstream I planes in the early 1960s, converting many to long-range command and control aircraft. They remained in service until 2001.


Feature image: screen capture from YouTube.

Do Not Sell My Personal Information